The Way I Journal: Alan Bailward

[Day One] Who are you and what do you do?

[Alan] My name is Alan Bailward (@alanbailward), and I’m the senior technologist at a web startup just out of Vancouver, BC. By day I do everything from programming architecture to fixing printers, while evenings and weekends I am a portrait and wedding photographer. I’ve been everything from tech support to a programmer to a system admin (and back again) since my first job in IT in 1994.

When and why did you start journaling?

I’m pretty sure it started when I was 11 or 12 and read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. At the time I was a voracious reader and the story was great, and showed me that writing about your own life can be really interesting, and tell a greater story. Of course my own life at the time wasn’t a storybook, but I got myself a notebook and started writing down things that happened that seemed interesting. I remember that my output wasn’t all that consistent and I’m pretty sure it was fairly forced, trying to make my life interesting like in the book. When I was a bit older I got back into it to deal with what I can only describe as teen angst. As a nerdy teen without much of a social life, having a place to put hopes, dreams, and… No, I’ll be honest, it was more about how I like this girl in school but she’s going out with this guy and I’d like to ask her out but how would I do it and all that stuff. I wish I could say it was something more noble, but it was who was going out with who, how pissed off I was when I had to get repairs on my car and other silly teen stuff like that.

How did your journaling style change across the years?

My early journaling was more honest, and was written just for me. It was before the age of the Internet (yea, I’m old) and its intention was an examination of myself more than anything. By writing out my feelings or what was going on with girls (or more often, what wasn’t going on) I had an outlet. When I moved out of the house to go to school I started a page (just called news.html) on my local ISP account for my parents, to let them know what was going on with me, make sure they knew I was still alive, that school was going well, etc. Eventually this turned into a personal blog that more people knew about in my social circles, and the writing style was more written for consumption. I started sending “secret” messages to a girl in the blog by putting more messages in comment tags. She’d do the same and we’d “talk” like that. I still wrote them with the knowledge that other people might find them, so while they were diary-like, they weren’t as honest. Lately with Day One it’s been nice to have something that is out in the open, but is still synced everywhere, so I’ve been moving back to a more honest, diary style, talking about what’s going on in the day, feelings, and frustrations. I’ve been dealing with some life-frustrations lately and I’ve been using a journal to track when I feel them and why.

Did you start journaling with paper when you started taking journaling seriously in college?

Yes, strictly paper, really, until Day One came out. I’m kind of obsessed with capturing my own handwriting and allowing those who read my journal at some point to see me through my handwriting. And so, even when Day One came out, there was some initial push back in my mind to capturing something digitally and allowing posterity to know me through a computer font rather than my handwriting. Of course when I started journaling, computers were just becoming affordable and available to the masses. But, you know, for a while I put up some resistance to using a computer to capture my thoughts and my experiences.

What is your journaling routine?

Either the mood strikes me or something interesting or frustrating enough happens that needs to be recorded. Sometimes it’s off to the side of my desk on my iPhone, or sitting on the couch on my laptop. I don’t have a set routine (other than hitting snooze or skip on the Day One menu bar reminder when it pops up!), it’s just when the muse strikes.

Do you focus on longform entries, or more on capturing the little moments of life?

I use the excellent Slogger to capture my online activity on a daily basis. Tweets, Instapaper links, Facebook updates, Flickr uploads, checkins, etc are all captured automatically. When I’m writing “real” journal entries, they tend to be longer form, though sometimes they are literally reminders for myself like “got cheque from client for $200, deposited tonight”.

Do you have a favorite spot you like to journal from?

Not really. Either at my work desk at work, or on the couch at home. That is where I tend to write from, but mostly because that’s where I am when I decide to write.

Do you recall your first Day One journal entry?

Sunday, August 30, 1992. It’s what I can only describe as “emo-Alan”, as 17-year-old me writes to a girl that I really liked, but couldn’t actually talk to. The first line is:

It is hard for me to say what I want to say. I could be straightforward and come out and say it or I could be poetic, and hide my feelings between the lines. I wish I could do both and yet neither.

It’s honestly painful to read, and it goes on for another 7 paragraphs, followed by the lyrics to a sad country and western song. Oh boy, oh boy… Originally this was written in a .doc file on my first computer, and was the start of the second phase of journaling I talked about above. I’d come home from school or work, sit at the computer and type things out. I kept the .doc file around for years to come, still have it, in fact, sitting in an archive in dropbox. Last month I decided that since I have a lot of old archive entries, and Day One seems like the main place to keep everything, that moving all my old entries into it would be a good idea. Lots of copying and pasting, some formatting (luckily I didn’t do crazy formatting), and I had 96 entries from ranging from 1992 to 1999. I tried to add a bit of extra commentary to them (not changing the original entry in any way) to note names or events that may be related to help remember things in the future. I did the same thing for my old hidden-in-the-comments blog entries to input 45 entries between 1999 and 2003. The fact that these start right after the .doc entries probably isn’t a coincidence. These required a bit more commentary because they were written in a more obtuse fashion, so adding what I could remember relating to the entry above it helped a lot. It was a neat trip down memory lane, I very rarely go back to read what I’ve written, going back and re-living and thinking about the people and events was a great and introspective experience. I think my next project might be to import my old blog, just to get everything on one place.

Do you write mostly on the iPhone, iPad, or the Mac?

Mostly on the Mac, since most of my long journaling is longer form, the keyboard on the computer is much easier to use. My iPhone is always with me though, so taking a quick picture or adding a quick note there is probably a close second.

How many entries do you have in your journal?

At current count 2,809 and 936 photos. Breaking that down:

  • 936 automated entries from Slogger
  • 96 old diary imports
  • 45 hidden blog comments

What is your favorite or most-used feature in Day One?

Other than the main entry screen I think it’d have to be a combination of the syncing (which I don’t really “use”, but I love that I can see the same entries on any computer or iOS device I have) and the API, or at least the third party support that lets Slogger auto-import everything about my day from other services like Twitter and Foursquare.

Do you follow any journal organization rules?

Mostly tags. I only know the numbers from my old entries and auto-generated entries because I tagged them with #social, #oldblogcomments, and #olddiary. I’m of the mindset that if things have metadata like tags associated with them I can always go back and “fix” them after. As far as the writing, no, I just write whatever it is that’s in my head that I feel like I need to get out. I need to follow that rule more though, I still don’t write all the time that I feel like I have something to say, and that’s something I feel like I should work on.

Have you ever relied on Day One for something unexpected, or used it to recall details about a specific event or date?

I think importing my old diary in is about the most interesting thing. Got me an interview, plus fame and fortune, on the Day One blog anyway 🙂 I have actually gone back and used the old entries to correlate other things in my life, like trying to find when some old pictures were taken by searching in Day One for when I went on a trip to Yosemite. I think my next project might be to find my old paper journal, if it still exists somewhere, and putting it in. Having a Day One that goes back to the mid-80’s would probably make me the coolest kid in class!

Thank you for such a great interview, Alan!

About the Interviewer

Tulio Jarocki is a student, design aficionado, and journaling enthusiast. When he is not writing about the rewards of journaling for Day One, he can be seen drinking coffee, running, or just out and about in Boston.

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